State of the Newsletter #4
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I have a semi-annual tradition at Something Interesting of doing an introspective update on the state and trajectory of the newsletter itself. [SotN Archive]. This is both an exercise in accountability for me and also an opportunity to acknowledge all of you.
Everyone who shares a post, clicks like, sends me a question or even just enjoys reading is part of Something Interesting and I am tremendously grateful. Thank you.
Inside this issue:
Something Interesting, by the numbers
Guidance from paid subscribers
Best of Something Interesting, 2023
The State of the Newsletter
Something Interesting is read by ~1.56k people across 44 states and 77 countries. That’s essentially flat since the last state of the newsletter in December of 2022, which would make sense for a year that I wrote much less frequently. But it wasn’t as uneventful as flat growth makes it sound — my two most controversial posts ever (A Bitcoiner’s Guide to CryptoPunks and The Cult of Bitcoin Culture) each caused ~1-2% attrition from my subscriber base. Fortunately a signal boost from Jameson Lopp and some others on Twitter helped me reach a new audience.
Something Interesting readers are pretty durable (my one year retention rate is ~75%) but the slowdown of posts this year while I was working definitely took a toll. In the year between when I started at Blockstream and when I left I averaged only ~1 post a month, as opposed to ~9 posts a month in the time before and after that window. Engagement (in the form of views) has dropped quite a bit during that hiatus and hasn’t fully recovered yet:
I finished up the year with an op-ed in Bitcoin Magazine, Free as in Freedom is not Free as in Beer. That got quite a bit of visibility (@BitcoinMagazine has 3M followers) but it didn’t translate into much downstream traction — the vast majority of my readership all comes from direct word-of-mouth. Around ~40% of new subscriptions come from substack and ~16% come from Twitter. ~33% or so come from people who clicked a direct link a friend sent them.
Basically, if you are reading this now it’s probably because someone in your life shared Something Interesting with you. Consider doing the same for someone else. 🙂
A survey of subscribers
It’s been around a month and a half since I left Blockstream and re-dedicated myself to the newsletter so I’m still figuring out what form things should take going forward. As part of that process of exploration I asked paid subscribers what they wanted to see out of Something Interesting going forward — here is what they said.
First off I asked them why they subscribed — and found there were two clear motivations that represented everyone who responded. Some were seeking access to paid content, but most (~73%) were seeking to sponsor the content.
Testing that question a little further I asked whether paid subscribers would want me to paywall a particularly 'good' post, whatever that might mean. The same pattern is visible again: ~3/4 of paying subscribers are more patrons than customers and don’t really want paywalls. I’m not totally sure how much of that is a lagging indicator from my previous era but it is notable. Since restarting the newsletter I’ve given paid subscribers early access to seven of my eight posts. Given this feedback I’ll be increasing the frequency of all-access posts in 2024.
Paid subscribers do absolutely still want some exclusive content, though it’s not clear exactly what content they think is most interesting to paywall. General consensus seems to be a blend of paid and free posts with free posts being more common but paid posts being interesting in some other way. Not immediately sure what that means for Something Interesting but I will mull on it. I’d also welcome any thoughts or suggestions from readers!
Over time I’ve settled into a pattern of longer posts on average and a habit of occasionally branching out of crypto to talk about something else I think is interesting. Broadly subscribers seem content with the mix of topics and happy with the general length of posts. So expect more of the same going forward.
Best of Something Interesting, 2023
Most read by subscribers:
Most read by visitors:
Most overlooked (in my subjective opinion):
Thank you for reading.